Trent became youth minister at our church shortly before I was done studying for and taking my CPA exam sections and was ready to jump back into volunteering with the youth again. I was excited to help out and see where I could be handy, useful or meaningful. But I also had some doubts. What the heck did I know about working with youth? I know most of the Bible stories but that's about the extent of my theological knowledge. I had a very stable, loving family growing up, went to small schools, etc. so I felt like I couldn't entirely relate to kids with broken homes, eating disorders, sexual activity, depression or any of the other serious stuff youth face these days that I was not exposed to. I didn't even really date except a short relationship senior year of high school and then Trent, who I married, so I didn't think I even really had any dating advice to give.
In these little fits of inadequacy, Trent always would tell me things like "Just be yourself, just be you. Love on them and show them you care and that's better than a seminary's worth of knowledge or a world's worth of experience."
The What Can I Become factor. The girls in our ministries need living examples of what their lives can become both in professional and in personal areas of life. Being around an adult woman who shares similar passions for life and career can be a constant encouragement to students that they too can succeed. At the same time, girls need to see women in healthy dating and married relationships to give them the right kind of aspirations and goals for themselves, girls aren’t usually getting these positive messages anywhere else.
Trent and I hold hands all the time, including in front of the youth. Their reaction is great. If they see us holding hands, they “oooh” and “aaaaaaaaw” and tease that it’s “sooo cuuuuute.” We just laugh and keep on. It’s silly and fun but I also really like those moments because it’s a chance for those young girls and guys to see a seriously in love couple, happy, committed, going through life literally hand in hand. (That's our "motto" for our marriage actually.) We are able to set a good example for them just by being ourselves! And it's a fun one to set too! Who doesn't love holding hands?
So maybe I don't have a lot of extreme experiences in my past, but I'm me, and that's something to offer. I've been asked out and broken up with, I have liked, loved, married, fought, made up, been mad at my parents, been reeeeeal mad at my siblings, made mistakes, corrected mistakes, had a bad job, have a great job, deal with money stress, been busy, been bored, been happy, been hurt, lost weight, gained weight, had my feelings trampled on, stood up for myself, laughed, cried, failed, struggled, questioned, succeeded. It's all a part of who I am now and I feel like if I just allow what all that STUFF has made me into today shine through honestly, I can touch lives of others...somehow...even if it's indirect, just me being myself.